Growing up, there were two shows that I watched most; The Cosby Show and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Both shows gave examples of Black families in America. They both showed loved between family and friends, successful Black men and women, but they went about it differently.

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The Cosby Show, which stared Bill Cosby and Phylicia Rashad aired September 20, 1984. Within the first season the show immediately made top charts, finishing the first season third in the ratings; Seasons two to five were first in the ratings until after the sixth season when the show fell to number two. The show revolved around life situations involving Cliff (Bill Cosby) and Clear (Phylicia Rashad) Huxtables and their five children; the family lived in a Brooklyn brownstone. The children were all well educated, especially the eldest daughter Sandra, who was a student of Preston University. Cliff and Clear kept their children a straight and narrow road meaning the children never really got into “real” trouble, the most trouble probably would be the episode where Vanessa, their third eldest daughter came home with bad grades which she tried to hide or the episode Theo, their only son gets his ear pierced. Overall the show was full of positive outlooks on life.

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The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, starring Will Smith aired September 10, 1990. The show was about a West Philadelphian teenager who was sent to live with his family in Bel-Air, California. The purpose of the move was for Will to stay out of trouble and gain responsibility. When moving to Bel-Air, Will moved in with his Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian, who is his mother’s sister, their three children and their butler Jeffery. Like the Cosby show, the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air revolved around day to day life situations involving the family.

What is a Para- Social Relationship?

A para-social relationship is when the audience builds a relationship with an actor based off of what they think they know.

Both The Cosby Show and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air can tie into this theory.
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The show is called, The Bill Cosby Show, but yet Bill plays the character of Cliff Huxtable. This can be confusing to audience members. Audience members may start to believe that this is the life Bill lives outside of television.

The same confusion goes for the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will Smith actually plays himself on the show, but his life was actually a bit different. In the show Will’s father abandons him, but in actuality he was raised by both parents. He was the second of four children, raised in a middle-class neighborhood; he also attended Catholic school. He was never sent to California to live with any family members, but to the audience, the show may portray his real life.

Reality vs. Idealism

Define Reality:

Reality - The world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them: "he refuses to face reality".

Define Idealism:

Idealism - The practice of forming or pursuing ideals, esp. unrealistically.

In an article, Enlightened Racism (Jhally & Lewis 1992), critics spoke about the Cosby show being a “misleading cozy picture, a sugar candy world unfettered by racism, crime, and economic deprivation.” The Cosby Show in a sense “reinforced the myth of the American dream.” Cliff Huxtable was a doctor, while his wife Clear was a lawyer. As stated before, the children were all well educated. Cliff and Clear barley got into any arguments; they seemed to be the “perfect family.”
Although, the Huxtable’s were Black, they didn’t really show the struggle that Blacks in America actually went through.

Good or Bad?

“Here, at last, are media representations of successful and attractive black people whom white people can respect, admire, and even identify with.” (Jhally & Lewis 1992)
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This quote may be true about the Cosby Show, The Cosby Show did not show the typical Black stereotypes that take place in America, but in my opinion, they should have.I’m not stating that all Blacks in America have gone through a struggle, but there is a struggle in our history. Yes! There are subliminal messages in the show, but nothing you would actually figure out, unless they are pointed out to you. For example, when Sandra had her twin babies, she named them Nelson and Winnie; if you know the story of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, you would understand the message. In my opinion, they should have done more, showed more relating to the struggle of Blacks.

The opening of the Cosby Show is another example of why, Caucasians can relate to the show. In the opening Bill has on a suite and bowtie, while the rest of cast member are just dancing to the music.

Comparing to the Cosby Show, The Fresh prince of Bel-Air, in my opinion had more relation to Blacks in America. If you listen to the show's theme song, it's vibrant, it's Hip-Hop (music in which Blacks are familiar with).

The Fresh Prince of Bel- Air had a few Black stereotypes, as you can see in the video below of Carlton, Will’s cousin whom was raised in a predominantly white community. Will made fun of Carlton, saying he danced like a “white boy;” from the music he listened to the way he dressed.

external image james-avery-fresh-prince-of-bel-air_1265121326.jpgAnother example of the relation Blacks may have to this show, Will’s father abandoned him; Will’s Uncle Phil took on the role of his father. Although this may not be the story for all Blacks, it is reality. There are many stories in the Black community where an aunt, uncle or grandmother may have to step in and raise a child. Below is a clip of Will talking Uncle Phil about his father:

This show was realistic; they dealt with real problems, bullying, sex, drugs, and family issues. Unlike the Cosby Show, Uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian did have arguments, they did disagree, and there was even an episode where Aunt Vivian left the house to stay with her sister, in reality, things like this happen; things at home are not always "peachy."

My Opinion:
In my opinion The Cosby Show, is an amazing show, but it is more idealistic than reality. Yes! I can agree that the show inspires Blacks in America to have careers, with beautiful children, but it's not always as easy for Blacks in America. The Cosby Show should have shown more realistic issues, because in reality things are not always "peachy."
As for the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, it was both realistic and idealistic. Uncle Phil was a lawyer, who was well educated and his wife Aunt Vivian was well educated, but yet they still were able to show the struggle it took to get there.